Just as a good carpenter needs the right tools to build a well-constructed house, a good seamstress need the right tools to make a seam or repair or to make a well-constructed garment. Without the right tools in your basic sewing kit to do your project, you will be lost.
Let’s face it, walking into the sewing section your local craft shop can be daunting for even the most experienced seamstress. So let’s start from the beginning, as if you have absolutely no experience with sewing and build you a well-stocked sewing kit.
Here are the basic sewing notions you will need, buy online or print a list to take to your favorite craft/sewing shop.
Assortment of Hand Sewing Needles, also called sharps- You will need an assortment, because different fabrics need different types and sizes of needles. For example: heavier fabrics need heavier needles and delicate fabrics need lighter needles. Want to learn more about needles? Here is a great post on Craftstylish.com called Know Your (Hand Sewing) Needles.
Assortment of Threads- Neutral colors are best to start with (tan, grey, white, black, brown) and I add blue, because let’s face it, a lot of clothes are blue.
Straight Pins and Safety Pins- These are used to hold your fabric, etc. in place while you are sewing. All-purpose or dressmaking pins are a good choice for beginning sewing. As for safety pins, keep an assortment of sizes for different jobs.
Shears and Thread Clippers- A medium-sized pair of shears is perfect for the beginning seamstress. Thread clippers are handy to keep by your side as you sew by hand or machine for clipping small things like thread and fabric bits.
Tip: To keep them sharp and clean, designate the scissors in your sewing kit only for cutting fabric. Do not use them on paper or other materials. They will dull quickly or collect dirt, grease, oil, food, etc. and will no longer make a flawless edge on your fabric.
Seam Ripper- A good seam ripper is essential. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes, even the most experienced seamstresses.
Measuring Tools- Good measuring tools are important. I recommend a 60-inch Taylor’s tape, a good 6-inch seam gauge, and if possible, a transparent quilting ruler. Same rules apply as in carpentry “Measure twice, cut once.”
Washable Fabric Marking Pens, Pencils, or Chalk- You will need a dark color for lighter fabrics and a light color for darker fabrics. Perfect for marking seams, where embellishments or buttons go, hems, etc. These are designed to wash or iron from your garment after you are done with construction.
Iron and Ironing Board- These tools will also help with precision. Ironing something flat before sewing will help everything line up better. You can start with a very basic iron in the beginning, then move to a nicer one later, if you feel the need. Ironing boards come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. If you live in a place where you can store one, a larger ironing board is best, but I have seen compact apartment-sized versions that work just as well.
Pin Cushion- My mom always made her own, but I have grown fond of my tomato pin cushion It has a strawberry with emery inside for sharpening pins hanging from it. A pin cushion is handy to have. It keeps your pins all in one place with the pokey side down.
A Container to Put it All In- This can be a basket, a box, a tote, or any other container you choose to use.
Beyond the Basics:
Here are some extras to put on a wish-list to expand your sewing kit in the future:
Needle Threader- Some of us need help with threading a needle, especially the ones with the tiny little eyes. This can be frustrating. A needle threader can help.
Larger Shears and Pinking Shears- These come in handy for more difficult projects. Larger shears are great for thicker fabrics used for home decor and upholstery. Pinking shears are perfect for decorative edges and help keep the edges of your fabric from fraying.
Thimble- It took me a long time to start using a thimble. If I am hand sewing for a long period of time, my fingers get sore. A properly used thimble helps!
T-Pins- These are used for heavier open-weave fabrics, when a standard dress-maker’s pin just won’t work, such as for upholstery and home decor fabrics.
Rotary Cutter and Rotary Cutting Mat- These two have many great uses in the sewing world. They make precision cutting very simple. One of my passions is quilting and these are two of my favorite tools.
For Quick Repairs:
Some of these are items you can buy or swipe from a worn out pieces of clothing. You know, the ones that are too far gone to donate, yet they still have a few usable parts. Cut them off or cut them up and keep them in a safe place for future use.
Assorted Buttons- Just in case you lose one. I have a large collection of buttons in several jars. I keep them on display in my sewing room. They are there just in case I need to replace one that gets lost. My kids love to look through all the buttons I have collected over the years. They use them on projects of their own.
Assorted Fasteners, Snaps, Hooks, and Eyes- Can’t tell you how many times I have needed these. They fall off clothing pretty easily. This is an easy fix.
Extra Fabric/Iron-on Patches- You can scraps from older clothing or projects or buy some that are iron-on for patching holes or refreshing older clothing with new, fun embellishments.
Seam Binding/Binding- Use this to lengthen pants, skirts or dresses when you need that extra hem allowance.
Iron-on Hem Tape- Ever been all dressed up, ready to go out and about and notice your hem has come loose? I have, and hem tape is the perfect (temporary) fix. Place it in your hem and iron, you’re ready to go.
Darning Needle- A darning needle is a larger needle that isn’t very sharp. It is used for, well…darning, as in socks or repairing knits.
Embroidery Needle and Thread- These have many uses. I use them mainly for quilting and embroidery projects.